Orioles’ future bright

MIKE RUTSEY, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:21 PM ET

BALTIMORE - Back in the glory days, when Earl Weaver was managing, Jim Palmer was setting them down and Boog Powell and Eddie Murray were hitting them out, in major league circles they would talk of the ‘Orioles way’.

It was a baseball organization that featured solid management, top-notch scouting and development and a strict emphasis on fundamentals and playing the game the correct way. It was a source of pride as much as a source of championships.

Recently, though, the so called Orioles way has been a joke. It has been ‘No way’ as interfering ownership and poor decisions coupled with absolutely zero player development stripped the team from its glorious past.

The last time the Orioles won the pennant was in 1997 when they went 98-64, but since then the O’s have lost 90 or more games seven of the past nine years including the past four in a row.

Last season, Baltimore sank to 64-98 and another last-place finish in the demonically tough AL East.

Given all that, you’d think that in Baltimore there would be nothing but doom and gloom concerning the 2010 season, but just the reverse is true.

In these parts the belief is that Baltimore is a team very much on the rise thanks to the hard work and perseverance of Andy MacPhail who took over the club presidency in 2007 and set forth on a road that is now being paved by Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos.

The Orioles, though, are at least a season and a half ahead of the Jays in their development plans.

That’s not a comforting thought for Blue Jays fans who are already fretting over the strength of the big three in Tampa, Boston and New York.

What has the Orioles believing that better days are ahead is the development and talent of their younger players.

They have budding super stars in centre fielder Adam Jones and catcher Matt Wieters, a rock solid, dangerous hitter in outfielder Nick Markakis and the fleet of foot Felix Pie.

On the mound the Orioles see nothing but upside and stardom for left-hander Brian Matusz, the No. 4 overall pick in 2008, who was 5-2 in eight big-league starts last year and with just 44 2/3 innings pitched in the majors, enters 2010 as the No. 3 pitcher in the rotation and a solid candidate for rookie- of-the-year honours.

Other young starters in this season’s rotation include right-handers Brad Bergesen and David Hernandez.

“I don’t know if we can say that (we’ve turned the corner) until halfway through the year, or maybe the end of the year,” veteran second baseman Brian Roberts said. “But we are starting to make that turn.”

MacPhail, though, knows that it’s still too early for everybody in the organization to start patting themselves on the back.

“I still would like to see the needle move in terms of team performance,” MacPhail said recently. “But in terms of collecting talent either through the amateur draft or trades or having talent that was already in the system, I think as an organization we’ve been doing a pretty good job at that.”

But the Orioles appear to be heading in the right direction.

Time will tell if they heading towards a re-birth of the ‘Orioles way’.

mike.rutsey@susnmedia.ca


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